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The Best Day of My Chess Life

The Best Day of My Chess Life

Aug 26, 2011, 2:59 PM 1,292 Reads 7 Comments

In 1986, Boris Spassky traveled to Dallas, Texas where I lived at the time.
It was great that Spassky was able to visit. My hero's when I was a child were
the top Russian chess grandmasters, like Tal, Botvinnik, Spassky, Petrosian, Keres, etc., not the sports athletes or football players most kids in my neighborhood followed.

Because of the Cold War, I assumed I would never get to see any of them
play in a tournament or get to meet them. I don't think anyone could have predicted in the 1960's that communism would collapse someday.

Spassky came to Dallas to play a simultaneous exhibition against 40 of the top chess players, fortunately I was one of them! There were a multitude of spectators and reporters present.

As he began the exhibition the room became silent as the players concentrated on their games. Spassky moved from one board to the next making a move. Finally he came to my board and stopped to study the position. He stood there much longer than he had at any other chess board and then shocked me by offering me a draw ! At that point, he turned and announced to everyone in the room that he would take a 10 minute break and with that he walked out of the room!

At that moment, all of the spectators rushed to my board to look at the position to  figure out why Spassky offered me a draw.

I sat at my board with a hundred people crowded behind me gawking at my position and making comments. Behind me I heard someone say, "Wow, Spassky offered you a draw?". Another said, "I can't understand why he did that!"

I was in my own delima, I wanted to keep playing across the board with this World Champion. He was one of the greats and I wanted this game to go on forever. Yet if I accepted the draw, I could always say that I played Boris Spassky and he actually offered me a draw.

Finally a master who was a member of the club, who would in normal times never lower himself to speak to me, looked at my position and said, "You played the Caro-Kann?"

"Yes" I answered. "Wow", he said and walked away.

That did it. I knew then and there that I would accept the draw. For the rest of my life I could say I played Boris Spassky and he offered me a draw!

Let me put this into perspective. When I was 12 and just learned to play chess, my best friend Sybren owned a set of Encyclopedia Britannica's and in it under the term "Chess" there was a photo of Spassky and Petrosian playing a round in their World Championship match in Moscow in 1969.

It was difficult to explain, but this guy was good enough to be in the encyclopedia and he offered me a draw!

After the 10 minutes had passed, Spassky came back in and everyone got back into their places and got quiet. Spassky came right up to my board and I said to him, "I accept your offer" and with that I offered him my pen and he signed my scoresheet, it was so quiet in the room you could hear a pin drop.

But what happened next, was even better than I could have ever imagined. It was even better than offering me the draw! Spassky looked at me and said in his deep Russian accent, loud enough for everyone in the room to hear, "You are a very good player!". With that, he shook my hand and continued on play the others. I was stunned. Here is a man who in the chess world is considered to be one of the top 10 players in the 1,000 year history of chess and he told me that I was not just a good player but a "very good" player!!! What a gracious man, he did not have to say that. But his words were very welcomed. I am one of the millions of ants in the chess world and he is one of the greats.

It was like in the movie, "Field of Dreams" when the ghost asked Kevin Costner, "Is this heaven?"

.... That's how I felt at that moment! If I never played chess again or even won another game of chess again in my life, it would be ok because Spassky told me I was a very good player! 

Thank you, Boris.

END OF POST - (from the blog www.lifetime-chess-student.com)

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